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North Carolina sports betting legislation falls apart at last minute

Over coffee recently, a betting industry exec asked me what I thought the chances were that North Carolina, where I make my home, would approve sports betting legislation this session. When I told him that the fact that it wasn’t done with only a few weeks left made me suspect it wasn’t getting done, he waved me off.

“Everything we’re hearing is that it’s passing,” he said. “A lot of these don’t get done until right at the end.”

I made a couple of calls and heard the same thing. Confidence was high. At the start of last week, a House bill that mirrored a previously passed Senate bill moved through two committees with little opposition. And then, after an unexpectedly contentious debate on the House floor last Wednesday night, it all fell apart.

After what had been a relatively quiet path through committee, ushered by supporters who understood that under the radar was the safest place to fly, representatives rose to debate the constitutionality of the bill’s structure, whether it would throw off enough money to make good on promises to HBCUs, the risks associated with allowing betting on college games, the onslaught of sportsbook advertising seen in other states, and more, all with only a week left in the session.

What was thought to be a margin of five or six votes dwindled to none. When the legislative session ended yesterday, North Carolina remained without legal online sports betting -- a surprise to a coalition of operators and leagues that believed the state was one of the more likely dominoes to fall in 2022.

There is a Hail Mary chance that legislators could take up the matter again later in the year -- if they return for a special session.

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